Today, there are six bells on the first tier of the bell tower: "Bear", "Swan", "Wide", "Novgorodsky", "Slobodsky" and "Rostovsky". Four of them are used in the chimes. Up to the 17th century the chiming was done by ochepny method (it means that a bell was swung from the ground by a lever)
The bells “Bear” and “Swan” were cast in 1775 by the master Semen Mozhzhukhin. They are very similar to each other and weigh about 450 poods (more then 7 tons) each. Both bells have their own history, started as early as the 16th century. In the past times the “Swan” was church-going bell of the Tsar Vassily III. It was cast in 1532 by the German master Nicholas Oberaker. And the “Bear” bell appeared in 1571, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The bells were originally cast in Alexandrovskaya Sloboda (settlement) by the master Ivan Afanassiev for the city of Novgorod, but it was said that the Tsar got angry for something and the bell remained in Moscow… Re-casting the bells “Swan” and “Bear”, Semen Mozhzhukhin kept the old inscriptions of them.
The “Novgorodsky” bell was re-cast in 1730 by the master Ivan Motorin from the church-going bell of 1555 from the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Novgorod. It is reflected in the long inscription, which also included the text from the former bell. It is a rare case: usually the bells do not have any signs of their predecessors. The ornamental tier of the bell has a remarkable image of Peter and Paul, keeping the scroll with the views of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St.Petersburg. The weight of the “Novgorodsky” bell is 430 poods (about 7 tons).
The bell “Wide” was cast in 1679 by the masters and brothers Vassily and Yakov Leontievs. Its weight is 300 poods (almost 5 tons). The bell got its name “Wide” because of its proportions. There is an unusually fine and flat ornament on the bell which reminds of the filigree technique. The inscription covers two upper rows of the bell and continues in the shaft. The letters are relieved and very well processed, so the inscription is easily read. The only unusual thing there is that words are separated one from another by two dots. The sound of the “Wide” bell is very melodious, continues and for a long time after the end of chime it does not fade away.